Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its partnerships and community engagement, the Philly Pumptrack has been named a Frontline Park.
The Pumptrack is located in historic Fairmount Park, the heart of Philadelphia’s park system. Although it is well-loved and boasts a healthy number of visitors, the park’s design (or lack thereof) has created some issues with programming and accessibility. Some areas have no amenities at all, and others become degraded due to misuse. Where Fairmount wings into the West Parkside neighborhood, the area was used as an illegal dumping ground, and more than a playground would be required to attract local residents and community investment.
After identifying a demand for additional cycling venues within Philadelphia, as well as a need for positive activities for youth from West Parkside, the Friends of the Philly Pumptrack and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation spent nearly three years securing the site at the Parkside Evans Recreation Center. With support and resources from the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Parkside Association of Philadelphia, the West Park Neighbors Association, the West Park Business Association, and many more organizations and community volunteers, the Pumptrack broke ground in October 2013 and was completed in May 2014, just in time for a community celebration and inaugural ride during the Conservancy’s “Love Your Park” Week.
Pumptracks are a new but increasingly popular feature in urban parks. They are relatively inexpensive to build and have a small enough footprint that they can be built in parks that may not have enough room for flat, linear trails. The bumps and curves of the Pumptrack require the rider to control speed and momentum with their whole body, offering a different recreational experience than traditional cycling. The project has been incredibly successful in generating interest, involvement and excitement from the community, so much so that there is talk of building additional pumptracks in other parks around Philadelphia. The Friends of the Philly Pumptrack now has more than 160 members, and volunteers have logged more than 2,400 hours since the track opened, maintaining the track for the thousands of cyclists that have visited since it opened.